Economics · Governance · Public Policy

Kashmiri Pandits: A Study

The term ‘Pandit’ was referred specifically to the Hindu Brahmins who were residents of the Kashmir Valley during the 15th and 16th centuries, in deference to their high education and economic status.  In the 19th century, the term referred to the Hindus and not only Brahmins, who stayed in the Valley and neither, migrated nor converted to Islam. The term was specific for the Hindus embedded in the culture of Kashmir so much that they appeared as Muslims and were living together from centuries as friends and good neighbours. About 4% of the total population in the Valley was those of Pandits.

The Kashmiri Pandit community had suffered the rage of being minority in a Muslim Majority state. Kashmir used to be a fully Hindu state, with no Muslim. When Islam grew in Africa, eventually Islamic preachers came to Kashmir too. Kashmiri Pandit community, being a Hindu community, respects every religion and akin to this they welcomed Muslims with open arms and called them brothers. But with the rising influence of Islam, Kashmir witnessed a demographic change in it. And, large groups of Muslims started ransacking local communities and during the Afghan and the then Mughal rulers in India gave long rope to Muslims to get Pandits converted forcefully. Pandit community suffered exodus 6 times during these history unfolding.

Kashmiri Pandits were divided into the astrologer clay (Jotish), the Priest (Guru), and those who follow secular occupations (Karkun). The vast majority of Kashmiri Pandits, who belong to the Karkun category, were salaried state employees in the lower ranges of the administration, while others practice agriculture and related occupations. A small minority, primarily from the first two categories, engaged themselves in various religious occupations, such as astrology and performance of Pandit rites and ceremonies.[1]

After gaining enough hold over Kashmir during the Muslim ruler, Muslims wanted the state to be ruled on the Islamic laws. But, the course of time changed and God finally heard Pandits, who were tortured under Muslim rule and Sikh rule came to Kashmir. Maharaja Ranjit Singh was the then ruler and imposed restrictions on Muslims, and Pandits were finally relieved. After that period, Hindu ruler i.e., Non-Muslim rulers ruled Kashmir. Pandits being an educated community, groomed under their rules and occupied dignity and a higher status in the society. After 1947, India-Pakistan partition and merger of States to either India or Pakistan happened wherein, the ruler of J&K, Maharaja Hari Singh decided to merge with neither India nor Pakistan. Muslims in the state turned totally against the ruler. Even the Muslim sub-ordinates of Hari Singh became a threat for him. Pakistan sent its terrorists in Kashmir. Pandits in Kashmir again suffered and many of them were killed, converted and raped. Northern and North-Western regions of the state witnessed blood flood. Situation went out of control and, Hari Singh decided to handover the state to India. Hari Singh signed instrument of accession, after which Indian forces entered Kashmir.

Kashmiri Muslims became the victim of politics from across the border and started demanding a Muslim state or an Independent state away from the Indian rule. Pandit community being an Indian supporter in Kashmir was made to suffer. In 1990’s situation in Kashmir grew beyond control. Terrorist elements were raised at the local levels by Pakistan. Pandit community lost its leader Tika lal Taploo to terrorism. A notice was published in local newspaper asking Pandits to leave Kashmir. In the early hours of 19th January, 1990 Muslims gathered in local mosques and carried out processions from there raising Islamic Slogans and asking Pandits to leave Kashmir. Pandits left Kashmir in 19th January, 1990 leaving behind their motherland, their properties to save their culture.[2]

On Jan, 04, 1990, a local Urdu newspaper, Aftab, published a press release issued by Hizb-ul-Mujahideen, asking all Pandits to leave the Valley immediately. These warnings were followed by the Kalashnikov-wielding masked Jehadis carrying out military-type marches openly. Reports on killing of the Kashmiri Pandits continued to pour in. The bomb explosions and sporadic firing by militants became a daily occurrence. Explosive and inflammatory speeches being broadcast from the public address systems of the mosques became frequent. Thousands of audio cassettes, carrying similar propaganda, were played at numerous places in the Valley, in order to instill fear into the already terrified Kashmiri Pandit community.

Some of the slogans used were: “Zalimo, O Kafiro, Kashmir harmara chod do”.
(O! Merciless, O! Kafirs leave our Kashmir), “Kashmir mein agar rehna hai, Allah-ho-Akbar kahna hoga” (Anyone wanting to live in Kashmir will have to convert to Islam.)

FORCED MIGRATION

Out of 75,343 families; 74,692 families of the Kashmiri Pandits living in the Valley opted for a gradual migration. As per the Census report of the KPSS, 651 families at 104 places are left behind in the Valley. The Government agencies say that more than 700 families are living in Kashmir valley.

Forced migration is one of the most visible and disruptive effects of armed conflict. In Jammu region forced migration and displacement has become a problem that has spanned about two decades. In some cases, parents of displaced children were at one time displaced children themselves.[3]

SOCIAL CONDITIONS:

Up to 1989 there were 75,343 families settled in the valley. Due to militancy, 74,692 families migrated to various parts of India. Now there are only 651 families occupying the various parts of the Kashmir valley (Data Collected from J&K Population Department). The residual members in the valley, five thousand by the official count and decreasing by the day, are subject of the recurring brutalities of the carriage of Sangrampora (1997), the massacre of Wandhama (1998), and the holocaust of Nadimarg (2003). Having lost their homes, hearths, and all material possessions, they have been housed in tents or one room tenements, living like scared rabbits.

They were struggling for survival by living under the climatic difficulties. The frequent change of places created struggle for survival. Migrants were complaining that food materials were not provided by the Government sufficiently in the refugee camps. They lost their traditional festivals, cultural activities, worshiping their shrines almost socially and culturally deprived their glorious past. Family set up was damaged, forced exile created forced separation of the parents who lost their children and children who lost their parents, such incidents were common. Discriminations, denial and deprivation were common. The dignity and worth of human person was disturbed. Thus all of the agony led to break down of family structure, social and cultural deprivation etc. The Pandits had been punished for no crime. They had suffered a lot but unfortunately no one paid attention to them.[4]

MEASURES TAKEN BY GOVERNMENT

Every year the Central and the State Governments is taking many measures to solve the Pandit’s problems. They are getting subsidies and financial assistance from the authorities. They think that, they are living in their motherland like a second class citizen. Minister for Revenue and Relief, Mr. Raman Bhalla, informed Legislative Assembly that 1024 flats have been completed and allotted to 139 of the registered migrants in Jammu, of these 256 flats have been constructed at Purkhoo while 384 of each have been raised at Muthi and Nagrota at a total cost of Rs.51 crore. The minister said 37403 migrant families are registered with Relief Organization (Kashmir Times dated 30 January 2009).

The employment package for 6000 unemployed migrant youth for which 3000 each will be absorbed by the Central and State Governments who wish to return and want to set up their income generating units will be entitled for a cash assistance of Rs.5 lakhs, of which Rs.2.50 lakh will be a subsidy component. Besides the Prime Minister declared a package for the rehabilitation of the unemployed youth, in the form of different kinds (Srinagar Times dated 22 August 2009). There are ten important Organizations working in the whole nation for the prosperity of the Kashmiri Pandits. Panun Kashmir is a major umbrella organization working for Pandits protection and Security.[5]

Thus, Pandit refugees are leading their life in their camps in a badly affected geographical, social, economic and educational environment. Women and Children have also become the victims of this desperate situation. Children are neglecting their education, economically insecure, affected by diseases, mentally depressed etc. A sympathetic approach is to be given to the issue of Kashmiri Pandits.

[1] Socio Economic Conditions of Pandits: http://shodhganga.inflibnet.ac.in/bitstream/10603/4178/10/10_chapter%203.pdf

[2] http://www.fmreview.org/FMRpdfs/FMR08/fmr8.10.pdf

[3] http://www.isca.in/IJSS/Archive/v2/i10/2.ISCA-IRJSS-2013-096.pdf

[4] http://www.isec.ac.in/WP%20237%20-%20Khalid_2.pdf

[5] http://www.ndtvmi.com/b5/B5_Dopesheets/Tanvi_Dope.pdf

About the Author

Bhagyashree SonwaneBhagyashree Sonwane is a 4th year student from Vaishnav Law College, Indore. Her areas of interests are Legal Compliances and Corporate Laws. She’s pursuing Company Secretary Course and is associated with the Model Governance Foundation and Global Justice Academy as Research Intern. She’s a learner and a determined student. Her hobbies include reading, travelling as well as cooking.

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